When it comes to the Minnesota Vikings, everyone seems to be focusing in on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and his ability to complete passes deep down the field, which makes sense. The NFL has transformed into a passing league and down-field passing was an area that Bridgewater rarely excelled in during his first two seasons.
Things appear to be turning around for the third-year starter, though, as he has looked much more comfortable throwing the ball 20 or more yards down the field. He isn’t going to complete all of those passes, obviously, but he appears to be completing them on a more regular basis.
Not only that, but he also appears to have put on more muscle this offseason, which has also caused his throws down field to have more zip to them.
The Vikings traveled to Cincinnati to conduct a couple joint practices with the Bengals before the two play against each other in Friday’s preseason opener. The practices were a good chance for Bridgewater to get some extra work in throwing the ball because he was working against an unfamiliar opponent and still didn’t have to worry about getting hit, since it was still a practice.
“You get a different feel for a different opponent. In training camp you’re only going against your defense and to come out here against an unfamiliar opponent, a team we won’t face in the regular season, I haven’t faced in the regular season, it was good,” Bridgewater said. “You get some different looks and it makes it like a game. You have to adjust to things that you’re not used to seeing, so that’s the biggest thing, being able to adjust on the fly. I think our guys did a great job of just handling what was thrown at us.”
He said that both he and the offense have a better understanding of what the coaching staff is asking of them, and that’s been a big reason for the improvement. They have a more aggressive mentality when out on the field, but are also playing very relaxed. It is his third year in Norv Turner’s system, so he has become much more comfortable with everything that is asked of him.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has been one of the biggest advocates for Bridgewater’s offseason progress and the trip to the Queen City hasn’t changed that.
“(Wednesday) he threw some nice deep balls,” Zimmer said. “Threw a couple nice deep crossing routes to (Stefon) Diggs. I think he’s taking the things we’re working on him with in practice and continues to improve.”
It’s always important for a quarterback to get going during practices, which Bridgewater has been doing for the most part, but it ultimately doesn’t matter if they can’t produce during games. No one is going to hit the quarterback during practice, but that is not the case during a game.
Defensive players want to pressure and hit an opposing quarterback as much as possible during a game, and that is when Bridgewater will truly be tested. However, it’s still unclear when that time will really come. The Vikings play the Bengals on Friday, but Zimmer still isn’t sure how much Bridgewater will play in that game, if at all.
“It depends what kind of mood I’m in,” he said.
In reality, it may not be until the Vikings third preseason game - when the starters get the most playing time - on August 28, when Bridgewater and his deep passing game get their first extended test.